Should the St. Louis Blues suit up Ryan Reaves in the playoffs this week? Is it a good, bad or ugly decision for head coach Ken Hitchcock to make on the wake of what could be his final playoff session with the Blues? The question is easy for some to answer and harder for others to contemplate.
Disclaimer: I am a Reaves fan. I am a lover of enforcers. Tough guys who don't take shit, wear a badge on the ice and dismantle opposing players taking shots at the star talent on their team. They are a required dose of Go Fuck Yourself on the ice and I like seeing Reaves run out there and throw his weight around. He's a unfiltered can of rage monster out there. 75 cans of Monster Energy drink shaken up and thrown like a grenade. What can I say? I'm in love with that kind of player. A dying breed in hockey.
Is it needed this month as the Blues try to erase a dozen closets of playoff ghosts and nightmares? Let's take a look.
*Reaves' physicality will make opposing defensemen keep an eye out for the maniac on the ice. Wingers will have to think twice before running into that corner. It's like touching a hot stove. You know it's going to hurt but is it worth it? Reaves does that every time he's out there. His teammates also have to feel a little safer with him out there. Call it an expensive puck protection plan.
*Let's be honest. He's not as worthless as Tony Twist or Reed Low out there. If he gets the puck, Reaves knows where to put it or wisely cycles it to the next more talented 4th liner. At one time, he was challenging Magnus Paajarvi for goals scored. Reaves isn't hopeless out there.
*The Blackhawks are a physical team of asshats that need to be put in their place. If Reaves isn't out there, who the hell does it? Who is going to go ape shit on another player if another "Wakey, Wakey" occurs? Reaves polices that shit.
*As Hildy Mac pointed out, the Blues don't need Reaves going out there and costing the team by taking a dumb penalty. The ref may be wrong but you are still serving two minutes. In a low scoring series, it may be costly. Reaves is a weapon of mass destruction.
*The Blues need all the talent they can get against the Hawks on the ice. While I think he is halfway useless and is a detriment to a top line, Paajarvi could blend in with Upshall and The Brooding Kyle. His speed may find a use on the fourth line. Once upon a time, Magnus scored at some level so maybe he can squeeze another rebound past a Corey Crawford's pad or something. Dmitrj Jaskin could also play a role on the fourth line, giving them a scoring touch.
*Let's face it. Reaves will only play about 7-8 minutes a game. How much does that matter? We aren't talking about game changers here. Just a coat of paint on the outside of the events of this playoff series.
I can see why Hitch wants to play Reaves. The Hawks are a rival pack of bastards who may need to be put in check. The Backes hit changed the entire tone of the series two years ago and maybe this time Reaves can stop that. He was out there for that game so maybe not. I can also see why Reaves doesn't have to play. Jaskin and Paajarvi offer more skill. If Steve Ott was 100%, this wouldn't even be a discussion for Hitch(except for the whole not having played in months part).
If I had the clipboard, I would play Jaskin in Game 1. See how the kid does with the assignment and see if he can come up with a big unexpected play. Remember when Adam Cracknell scored in Game 1 against the Hawks two years ago? What if Jaskin could do something like that?
Nevertheless, here are the line pairings today via Jeremy Rutherford. This could change with David Backes and Troy Brouwer back in there Wednesday of course.
#stlblues lines— Jeremy Rutherford (@jprutherford) April 11, 2016
Ryan Reaves has a place in this game. Does he have a place in a playoff series? That is up for debate.